Sunday, September 25, 2016

How 'Star Trek' shaped the present and future

When I wrote "I'll have more on the other [News and Documentary Emmy] winners next week, possibly beginning with Sunday's entertainment entry" to end Emmy Award winner 'Rise of Animals', the key word was "possibly."  I'll still do it, but later this week.  Instead, I'm celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary one more time with two videos from Smithsonian Channel from its documentary "Building Star Trek."  I begin with a topic I've examined here before, a real-life tricorder in The $10 Million Race to Invent Star Trek's Tricorder.

Fifty years after the show aired, Star Trek’s fictional tricorder is far from becoming a reality. But a $10 million prize from the XPRIZE Foundation is hoping to motivate inventors to create one quickly.
The show influenced more than technology.  Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols on Uhura's Radical Impact depicts its impact on society.

Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1968. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.
To watch more, click here for the full documentary.  Sorry, embedded disabled by request.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Double driving update for September

I told my readers to stay tuned for a driving and gas price update today at the end of Emmy Award winner 'Rise of Animals'.  Time to follow through.

Both cars turned over their odometers this week.  Dez (similar to the car above) passed 52,000 miles on Monday and Pearl rolled past 29,000 miles on Wednesday.  Dez last turned over in April, specifically  April 27th.  That means it took 145 days for the car to drive 1,000 miles for an average of 6.90 miles per day and 210.34 miles per standard month.  That's much less than any of the three previous updates, the 23.81 miles per day or 726.2 miles per standard month during March and April, the 9.9 miles/per day or 302.0 (301.98) miles per standard month between December and March, and the 16.67 miles per day or 508.33 miles per standard month between October and December.  This is the lowest average daily and monthly travel for the car since my wife and I bought it.  I attribute the lower mileage to trips to visit family and no long trips for service or shopping.  That will probably change next month, when my wife has some travel planned.

Pearl last rolled over her odometer on July 27, 2016, when it passed 28,000.  That means 57 days elapsed until the car passed 29,000 miles this week.  That translates to 17.54 miles per day and 535.1 (535.09) miles per standard month.  Those are less than both the 18.52 miles per day or 564.8 miles per standard month during June and July and the 19.61 miles/day and 598.0 miles/month I drove Pearl between April and June.  On the other hand, it's very close to the 17.41 miles per day, 530.9 miles per standard month over the entire first year I owned the car.  I just had an average month!  Driving to no meetings during July and August plus not working for three weeks of August contributed to the lower use, but I should have walked more.  Instead, I drove a lot of short multi-store shopping trips for my wife that resulted in me buying too much to carry while I was home.  I'm sure that contributed to her driving a lot less!

Both cars passing another 1,000 miles within two days of each other presents another opportunity to examine the driving of the entire household.  When I did that in March, I estimated it to have been a combined average of 34.21 miles/day and 1043.42 miles/month.  The next month, it jumped to a total average of 40.48 miles per day and 1270.8 miles per month.  This time, I'll add Dez's 6.90 miles per day to the average for Pearl over two reports, 18.03 miles per day, to yield 24.93 miles per day and 760.4 miles per standard month.  That's a big drop.  It was probably a good thing that I ran those errands in my Prius than my wife doing them in her Tiguan, as I probably consumed several gallons of gas less than she would have.

Enough of my life.  Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Emmy Award winner 'Rise of Animals'

As I mentioned in Al Jazeera America's final Emmy nominations, the News and Documentary Emmy Awards were given out Wednesday night.  Unfortunately, Al Jazeera America didn't win any.  That doesn't mean that I found the awards disappointing.  Quite the contrary, since I've started paying attention, I've found worthwhile shows that I can share with my classes, whether about Snow Monkeys or Your Inner Fish.  This year, the winner that caught my eye was Smithsonian Channel's "Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates," which earned Outstanding Nature Programming.  Not only is it excellent informative television, it gives me a chance to write about fossils.

Smithsonian Channel has obligingly loaded several videos from the show to its YouTube channel, begining with Sir David Attenborough answering the question When Did Our Backbones First Appear?

When did vertebrates emerge, asks David Attenborough? An exciting fossil find in China points to a 525-million year old sea-dweller who used its new backbone to swim nimbly away from predators.
I can definitely use this in class.

Follow over the jump for more videos.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Autumnal Equinox 2016!

Today is the last day of astronomical summer and the first day of astronomical fall.  Treehugger gives the exact time of the transition today in 12 things to know about the 2016 autumnal equinox.
Well hello, fall.

Even though it happens year after year, the arrival of autumn is always a little surprising. Almost as if on a switch, one day late in the summer you feel it – a subtle crispness in the air. And before you know it, it’s pumpkin-spice-everything everywhere. We are suddenly swathed in sweaters and wearing boots and bombarded by shades of orange, often even before the thermometer warrants it. After slogging through a long hot August, it's exciting.

We can thank the autumnal equinox for this shift from sultry summer to cozy fall. And while most of us are aware of when the first day of autumn lands on the calendar, there’s more to the equinox than meets the eye. Consider the following.

1. This year, the autumnal equinox arrives precisely at 10:21 a.m. (EDT) on Thursday, September 22. Unlike an event like New Year’s midnight that follows the clock around the time zones, equinoxes happen at the same moment everywhere.
Eleven more facts at the link in the headline.  You can read them, or you can watch this video from National Geographic.

Just twice a year, day and night fall into perfect balance. Some claim that astronomical phenomenon, called equinox, inspires ancient structures to reveal hidden secrets.
Or you can do both.  Either way, happy equinox!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Al Jazeera America's final Emmy nominations

I told my readers to expect "two or three entries about the News and Documentary Emmy Awards" at the end of Ten Emmy Awards for 'Game of Thrones' plus other speculative fiction winners.  Today, the day of the award ceremony, I begin delivering on that promise with the swan song for Al Jazeera America, which announced this past January that it was shutting down.  The cable news channel followed through, closing in April.  However, it kept up its excellence in journalism right up to the end, which earned the outlet 10 Emmy nominations, making it the seventh most nominated news source behind ABC News with 11 nominations and ahead of The New York Times with 9.
Al Jazeera America 10
Fault Lines 5

Baltimore Rising 1
Conflicted: The Fight for Congo’s Minerals  1
Forgotten Youth 1
Forgotten Youth: Inside America’s Prisons 1
The Puerto Rico Gamble  1

Al Jazeera America Presents  2
Freeway: Crack in the System 1
Guantanamo’s Child 1

Ali Velshi On Target 2
Hitting The Brakes: Chicago’s Red Light Camera Scandal 1
Slave Wages For The Disabled 1

America Tonight 1
Emmett Till Special 1
The categories include Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting in a
Regularly Scheduled Newscast (2 for Ali Veshi), Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking News Story in a News Magazine (1 for Fault Lines), Outstanding Investigative Journalism in a News Magazine (1 for Fault Lines), Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting in a News Magazine (2 for Fault Lines), Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story: Long Form (1 for All Jazeera America Presents), Outstanding Investigative Journalism: Long Form (1 for Al Jazeera America Presents), Outstanding Writing (1 for America Tonight), and Outstanding Research (1 for Fault Lines).  In future years, some other outlet will get these nominations, but I'll miss Al Jazeera America.  I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote in January about the channel closing down.
I appreciated Al Jazeera's investigative reporting and presentation without sensationalism.  In that, I'll echo what Al Jazeera America CEO Al Anstey wrote in an email to his employees: "I know the closure of AJAM will be a massive disappointment for everyone here who has worked tirelessly for our long-term future. The decision that has been made is in no way because AJAM has done anything but a great job. Our commitment to great journalism is unrivaled."
And it was, right up to the end.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'Game of Thrones' and 'Orphan Black' win Emmy Awards

I opened Ten Emmy Awards for 'Game of Thrones' plus other speculative fiction winners by listing the awards it had already won then counting how many it still could win.
"Game of Thrones" won ten Creative Arts awards last weekend: Outstanding Casting – Drama, Outstanding Non-Prosthetic Makeup – Single-Camera, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup, Outstanding Costumes – Period/Fantasy, Outstanding Production Design – Hour-Long, Outstanding Production Design – Contemporary/Fantasy, Outstanding Stunt Coordination – Drama/Limited, Outstanding Special Visual Effects, Outstanding Picture Editing – Drama, and Outstanding Sound Mixing – One-Hour.  Ten down, up to five to go.
Those five were Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Supporting Actor, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Outstanding Direction, and Outstanding Writing.  It won three of them, Outstanding Drama, Outstanding Direction, and Outstanding Writing.  ABC News reports on "Game of Thrones" and the other major shows in 2016 Emmy Awards HIGHLIGHTS: Biggest Winners, Moments.

"People v O.J. Simpson" and "Game of Thrones" were big winners at the 68th annual awards show.
Fantasy, crime, and politics, three of my favorite topics in fiction, all produced big winners on Sunday.  For both Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Veep" and "Game of Thrones," the wins were historic.  It was the fifth time she had won for the same role, making her the first actress to do so.  As for "Game of Thones," the show has now won 39 Emmy Awards, making it the most recognized show in the history of television.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Drinks for Talk Like a Pirate Day from Tipsy Bartender

Ahoy, Maties!  It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!  Today, I'm going to celebrate the day in one of my trademark ways.  I've already done drum corps and alignment charts, so it's time to mark today's holiday with drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender.

I begin with the most recent, the Captain on Acid Shot.

When you love rum, it's time for a Captain on Acid Shot!
1/2 oz. (15ml) Captain Morgan Rum
1/2 oz. (15ml) Coconut Rum
1 oz. (30ml) Pineapple Juice
Splash Blue Curacao
Splash Grenadine
Inna is having way too much fun with her dachshund.

Follow over the jump for two drinks with similar names, but different recipes.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ten Emmy Awards for 'Game of Thrones' plus other speculative fiction winners

In July, I wrote "Twenty-three Emmy nominations for 'Game of Thrones' may suck the oxygen away from other speculative fiction nominees."  That almost happened, as I can repeat what I wrote after the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last year--"'Game of Thrones' already a big winner at the Emmy Awards."  According to the list at E! (but not the reporting, which confused all of HBO's awards for its premiere series'), "Game of Thrones" won ten Creative Arts awards last weekend: Outstanding Casting – Drama, Outstanding Non-Prosthetic Makeup – Single-Camera, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup, Outstanding Costumes – Period/Fantasy, Outstanding Production Design – Hour-Long, Outstanding Production Design – Contemporary/Fantasy, Outstanding Stunt Coordination – Drama/Limited, Outstanding Special Visual Effects, Outstanding Picture Editing – Drama, and Outstanding Sound Mixing – One-Hour.  Ten down, up to five to go.

As I feared, "Game of Thrones" managed to shut out the other series I was rooting for, "The Walking Dead," "Penny Dreadful," and "Gotham."  None of them won a single award.  However, it still didn't beat all of the speculative fiction entries nominated against it.  The one I found most surprising was "Man in the High Castle" beating "Game of Thrones" for Outstanding Cinematography – Single Camera.  The Amazon series about the Hugo Award winner also won Outstanding Title Design, defeating "Marvel's Jessica Jones," "Narcos," "The Night Manager," and "Vinyl."  "Jessica Jones" still got recognized, but that's a story for over the jump.  Finally, "Black Sails," which barely qualifies as speculative fiction, won Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series.  That's small consolation for being cancelled.

"Game of Thrones" also lost some categories to more conventional fare.  "Downton Abbey" beat it for Outstanding Hairstyling (Single-Camera).  Hank Azaria beat Max Von Sydow to win Outstanding Drama Guest Actor for his role in "Ray Donovan."  "The Late Late Show With James Corden" won Outstanding Interactive Program to beat out the interactive versions of both "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead," although Chris Hardwick, host of "The Talking Dead," won Outstanding Social TV Experience for "@Midnight."

As for speculative fiction shows nominated in categories mostly not contested with "Game of Thrones," the big winner was "American Horror Story: Hotel."  It won two awards for Outstanding Non-Prosthetic Makeup – Limited Series and Outstanding Costumes – Contemporary.  Two other awards that E! attributed to the series, Outstanding Picture Editing – Limited Series, and Outstanding Sound Mixing – Limited Series, actually went to "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," according to Variety.  Congratulations, despite losing to "Game of Thrones" in the two categories where the two shows went head-to-head, Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup and Outstanding Production Design – Hour-Long.

Another show I had high hopes for was "Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462," which was nominated for Outstanding Short Form Comedy Or Drama Series and Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.  The show was the first in "The Walking Dead" franchise to be nominated for overall show or an acting award.  Unfortunately, it lost.  "Childrens Hospital" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim won best Short Form Comedy or Drama Series and Patrika Darbo won for her role in "Acting Dead" on  Well, at least a zombie show won something.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Colbert and Meyers examine the Trump Foundation

Early last week, Paul W. at You Might Notice a Trend did some research on the Clinton Foundation Vs. Trump Foundation.
Where I work, I have access to a foundations/grants database.

On a whim, I took a look at the two foundations currently in the news...

The governing board for the Clinton Foundation has CEO, CFO, executive Director. The only Clinton family member I see active with the non-profit is Chelsea Clinton.

The governing board for the Trump Foundation is all Trump: Donald himself, two of his kids, one of his grandkids, and I think his son-in-law. I know I shouldn't suspect *cough* nepotism *cough* but still...

The database I use didn't show on the records the foundations' rating scale, it may have been under a different part of the directory. But for what I know, the Clinton Foundation is vetted and graded and the Trump Foundation isn't.
My comment summarized the information in the last two links.
I'm a regular user of Charity Navigator. That site has a wealth of data many charities, including both foundations. The Clinton Foundation has a 4-star rating. The Trump Foundation is not rated at all!
The day before, Paul quoted a Washington Post article in A Serious Scandal For a Deadly Serious Election Year that reported that the $25,000 donated to a political group connected to Florida Attorney General Pan Bondi came from the Trump Foundation.  The two stories came together again this week when The Late Show with Stephen Colbert posted The Trump Foundation Needs Your Help to its YouTube channel.

Can you find it in your heart to give? For just pennies a day you too can pay off a Florida attorney general.
Colbert wasn't the only late night television host to examine the Trump Foundation.  Seth Meyers did so as well in A Closer Look: The Trump Foundation and tied it into other controversies surrounding Trump, his not paying contractors to his business and vendors to his campaign and his not releasing his tax returns.

Seth examines whether Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns is related to controversy surrounding his personal foundation.
Meyers did a good job of closing the circle on this segment, so I'll follow suit by returning to Paul W., who concluded his blog entry on the two foundations with the rhetorical question, "And the Beltway media only wants the CLINTON Foundation to close down?  Screw them."  I second this emotion and see it and raise with this graphic.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry, which will be about the speculative fiction and music winners at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Clinton lead over Trump shrinking in Michigan

When I last reported on the state of the presidential contest in Michigan, Clinton had leads of 17% and 15%.  That was at the start of July.  The situation has changed dramatically since then, as WXYZ reports in EXCLUSIVE POLL: Presidential race between Clinton & Trump too close to call in Michigan.

The race for U.S. President has narrowed considerably in Michigan and is now too close to call!
The Detroit Free Press explains what happened.
Where she led among every age group a month ago, she now trails with voters 50-64 by 41%-33%. And what had been a 24-point lead among voters 18-34 has dropped to 7 points, 31%-24%, with Johnson picking up support to match Trump’s (24%).

Also, where Clinton led among black voters, 85%-2% over Trump in August, that is now 74%-2%, with the poll showing some support migrating to Johnson and Stein and the undecided number growing from 10% to 14%.

And in the most populous part of Michigan — Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties — where Clinton held a 53%-27% edge over Trump in August, she now holds a 47%-32% margin. Undecideds remained at 11%.

Clinton's support among people from union households fell from 49% to 41%, where Trump’s rose from 29% to 37% — though she appeared to continue to hold a wide margin among union members themselves. The UAW, Teamsters, AFL-CIO and others have endorsed Clinton.
On the one hand, EEP!  FiveThirtyEight now gives Clinton 71.4% chance of winning the state, down from 93% in August.  On the other, it's now time to do something about the situation.  Fortunately, there is a campaign field office just a mile away.  The manager there has been asking me to phone bank and canvass since it opened.  When Clinton had a more than ten point lead, I didn't think she needed my help.  Now, she does.  Time to start volunteering!